At Lonely Planet, we believe that travel should be for all, and that accessible travel information is vital to making that possible. And with one billion people in the world living with a disability, the more resources there are for travelers with disabilities, the better.
In partnership with KAYAK.com, we’ve rounded up the top wheelchair-accessible destinations around the world. Consider these spots for your future travel plans.
How KAYAK.com can help you find accessible accommodations
KAYAK.com's search features can help travelers with disabilities find accommodations that meet their needs. To find accessible hotels, first search for hotels in your destination, and then check the “Increased accessibility” box in the “Amenities” filters on the left-hand side of the page. This filter reveals properties that offer these features: wheelchair accessible, facilities for disabled guests, in-room accessibility, accessible rooms, facilities for disabled guests, and disabled access.
Playa del Carmen, Mexico
One hour from Cancún International Airport, Playa Del Carmen is a far cry from its more revelrous neighbor, yet still has accessible hotels and an accessible beach furnished with beach wheelchairs. There’s even adaptive equipment to allow you to go snorkeling to enjoy the coral reef and green turtles. But the main reason for coming here is to visit the nearby and largely wheelchair-accessible Mayan archaeological sites, Chichén Itzá and Tulum, a rare chance for the mobility-impaired to get up close to ancient ruins.
San Diego, California, USA
With the Americans with Disabilities Act having just celebrated its 30th anniversary, much of the USA’s infrastructure is accessible, but our pick is San Diego. Laid out along the classic grid system, generally flat and with a fully accessible trolley system, it also boasts a balmy year-round 64-80°F climate.
The historic Gaslamp Quarter is very wheelchair friendly, as is the massive Balboa Park (incorporating the slightly hilly San Diego Zoo), but it’s the miles of beachfront promenade with beach wheelchairs available – including a motorized one with caterpillar tracks at Mission Beach! – that are the main attraction.
With the national tourism authority and Catalonia in particular pushing accessible travel, it’s no surprise that wheelchair users have been flocking to Barcelona. With 80% of the metro stations and 100% of buses wheelchair-accessible, as well as a relatively flat and cobblestone-free old city, getting around is a breeze.
What’s more, wheelchair users not only jump to the front of the queue for attractions such as the breathtaking Sagrada Família, they often get in for free! You can explore the length of La Rambla and get around the famous Mercat de la Boqueria; even the beach has wheelchair access and people on hand to help.
Las Vegas, Nevada, USA
Las Vegas is undoubtedly one of the most accessible cities for people with disabilities in the US. Of course, the casinos and the venues hosting world-renowned musicians and shows are all wheelchair accessible, as are the vast majority of sites and attractions, many of which – like the Fountains of Bellagio and the Fremont Street Experience – are completely free.
More surprising, perhaps, the High Roller – the tallest observation wheel in the world, which takes 30 minutes to do a full revolution – is also wheelchair-accessible. And if you’re after an adrenaline rush, wheelchair users can even enjoy the SlotZilla Zip Line and the Zoomline, which reach speeds of up to 35 miles an hour, or a hot-air balloon ride over the city.
Add to this a very wide choice in accessible accommodation, easy exploration along the wide sidewalks of the Strip, a fully accessible bus service that serves all parts of the city, and plenty of wheelchair-accessible taxis and you can begin to understand why Las Vegas has become something of a destination for wheelchair users.
Although it was the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution, much of central Manchester was rebuilt in the late 1990s, making smooth, wide, step-free pavements, as well as stepless entry into shops, restaurants and bars the norm – ideal for anyone with mobility requirements.
Northern England’s cultural hub is well served by accessible public transport, leaving you free to pay homage at Old Trafford, learn about our industrial roots at the Museum of Science and Industry or shop with the goths at Affleck’s. And if you’ve had enough of the city, the Peak District National Park, with well-developed facilities for visitors with disabilities, is less than an hour away.
Italy might not spring to mind as a very accessible destination due to its narrow, often cobblestone streets. But there are a number of tour operators that cater to travelers with disabilities. Motor-impaired travelers can enjoy scuba diving, 4WD off-road driving, traditional Sicilian fishing and olive oil making – not to mention the gastronomic delights normally associated with Italy. Indeed, two Guinness world records have been set here: first paraplegic to dive to 59m and first blind woman to dive to 41m!
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA
As one of the oldest cities in the US, you might not expect Philadelphia to be very accessible – but it is! While the Old Town may offer some challenges for wheelchair users, sidewalks are generally well maintained in the more touristed areas, with plenty of curb cuts and tactile markings.
This is particularly useful for wheelchair users considering most of the city’s attractions are within a two-mile radius of the City Hall. The subway, opened in 1907, is only partially wheelchair-accessible, as is the overland rail network, but unfortunately the aging trolley system is not. However, the city’s fleet of more than 1000 buses are all low-floor and wheelchair-accessible, as is the PHLASH tourist bus which runs a continuous loop downtown, stopping at many popular attractions, and costs only $5 for an all-day pass.
Needless to say, all of the city’s most popular attractions – including Independence Hall, the Liberty Bell, Love Park and the Philadelphia Museum of Art – are fully wheelchair-accessible despite their antiquity. And when it comes to finding accommodations, there are plenty of wheelchair-friendly options right in the center of the action.
With its highly accessible public transport system and compact city center, Melbourne is one of the most accessible cities in the world. Visit the sporting capital of Australia armed with Lonely Planet’s accessibility guide, Accessible Melbourne, a free e-book that includes the most up-to-date advice for travelers with special needs. Discover Melbourne’s best wheelchair-friendly restaurants, enjoy spectacular scenery along the Great Ocean Road, and visit one of the world’s best zoos as well as many of the parks that progressive Parks Victoria is opening up to visitors with access needs.
Slovenia’s flat and largely pedestrianized capital, served by accessible electric vehicles, is well worth a visit. Most of its buses are accessible, but the city is so small, with plenty of ramps and curb cuts, you might rarely need them.
The city’s main drawcard, the 16th-century Ljubljana Castle is reached via a funicular (free for people with disabilities and a companion) or train, both wheelchair-accessible. Many of Jože Plečnik’s famous bridges have recently been made accessible, and were joined in 2010 by the award-winning Butchers’ Bridge, which allows wheelchair users access to boats.
Singapore has to be the most accessible city in Asia and one of the most accessible cities in the world. Its universal code on barrier-free accessibility, in place for decades, plus increasing affluence have resulted in an infrastructure with stepless access to most buildings and no shortage of curb cuts.
Although power wheelchair-friendly taxis aren’t common, the accessibility of the mass rail transit (MRT) and buses makes them unnecessary. In Singapore, the question is not “what is accessible?” but rather “what isn’t?” – from its street food hawker centers to its marvelous zoo.
Like many European cities, Vienna is steeped in history, being the center of the former Habsburg Empire and the musical heart of Europe. Unlike many of its counterparts, however, its cobblestones have been removed, as have many of the curbs.
The refurbished city is both flat and compact, with most central shops and cafes fully accessible. Getting around is relatively easy with elevators to the metro and plenty of low-floor trams. Most museums and places of interest are fully accessible, including the must-see Schloss Schönbrunn.